The second type of ACT Science passage you will see on test day is Conflicting Viewpoints. In these passages, several different viewpoints or hypotheses will be presented on a specific scientific phenomenon. The first few paragraphs will describe the phenomenon and the remaining paragraphs will outline each student or scientist’s viewpoint. These passages typically contain more words than Research Summaries and Data Interpretation passages so your Reading skills will definitely be useful here! Let’s look at some tips for handling Conflicting Viewpoints:
The main goal of Conflicting Viewpoints passages is to understand what the argument or conflict is about and what is different about each of the points-of-view. As you carefully read and understand the phenomenon, basic theories, and support, it is also helpful to consider what are the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. What needs to be true in order for each theory to be correct? What assumptions are the scientists making?
You may find yourself taking a little more time than usual on Science passages to understand all of the viewpoints before you get to the questions. Make sure you get plenty of practice with Conflicting Viewpoints before your test so you are comfortable and confident with the format. You may feel more pressure on the Science test in terms of timing, but don’t skim on the Conflicting Viewpoints passages – you’ll need to truly understand each viewpoint to answer each question correctly!
Remember to start practicing now for the ACT Science test! Even if Reading and Science aren’t your strongest subjects, you can still raise your score dramatically with careful practice. Now let’s take a look at an example Conflicting Viewpoints question.
Example Conflicting Viewpoints Question
As you read each passage, look closely for keywords that help you identify the author’s opinions. What does the author like? What does he criticize? What adjectives and adverbs does he use to describe the various scientific topics? He may feel positively about one thing, and negatively about another. Feel free to use smiley faces or positive and negative symbols on your ACT Science practice questions to help summarize the author’s point of view. Don’t feel like you have to take extensive, detailed notes.
Scientist 1 believes in “parallel evolution” and uses “anatomical evidence” to support the theory. Scientist 2 believes in the theory of an evolved “small isolated population” and uses “DNA evidence” to support the theory. Scientist 2 criticizes Scientist 1 by saying that 1’s hypothesis is “much too recent.” Now that we have a strong grasp on the foundation for each point of view, let’s check out the question.
Which of the following best states the basis for the belief of Scientist 1?
A Molecular changes are more important than anatomical differences
B Molecular changes are less important than anatomical differences
C Molecular changes are more important than anatomical similarities
D Molecular changes are less important than anatomical similarities
We have already determined that “anatomical evidence” supports the theory, so we can eliminate A and C since those would support Scientist 2. Referring back to the passage, we can see that the scientist states: “These anatomical differences are so minor, this is clear evidence that modern humans must have evolved separately in Africa, Europe and Asia.” Clearly, Scientist 1’s focus is on the “differences.” The answer is B.